As it stands, it’s 2-1 to Sebastien Loeb this year. With Loeb only doing 4 events, it doesn’t give his Arch rival Sebatien Ogier much chance to prove himself against the 9 times Champion. But in Alsace, on Loeb’s last WRC outing It’s the war of the Sebastien’s!
This is the Rally that fans have been waiting for. Ever since that big fall out in Germany 2011, between Super Seb Loeb and the young contender, who was able to beat the driving god. Its been war. And after 9 World titles for Loeb. And a year out for Ogier to develop the fastest car in the current championship. It’s the last chance for two of best drivers in the world to prove who’s best. This weekend is all about Ogier Vs Loeb.
This weekend will be Ogier’s chance to wrap up the championship which he missed out of in Rally Australia a few weeks ago. But it’s not just the title Ogier wants this year, he wants to level the score with the best driver the sport has ever seen. Its something he has been doing since he was team mates with Loeb Back in Citroen in 2011, when their rivalry caused Ogier and the then team boss Quensel to leave the team.
Now in different teams Ogier says he has only one target this weekend. “I will go there for the victory” But had it gone differently, we wonder if his team boss would have been able to calm Ogier and to focus him on the championship rather than Loeb.
Volkswagen Team boss Capito said: “If our lead was less than this, then we might have had to have some tough words for Seb [Ogier]. In France, the focus could have been on the manufacturers’ championship – and we agreed at the start of the season that we would focus on this and not on beating Loeb on this rally. But now, things are looking good. I realise the result in Australia meant Seb missed his first title, but, to be honest, it made the manufacturers’ championship look stronger for us – this is the result I prefer!”
Ogier questioned whether Capito would really have tried to slow him down. “It would have been frustrating to be in that position and I’m not sure he could really ask me that this year – maybe he can more ask my team-mate for that,” Ogier said. “At the moment, I have done a good job for them and brought a lot of points to the team and they have to trust me. I’m sure he would have given me the chance to do it.”
But now with the championship pretty much spoken for (Ogier just needs 1 point more to claim the title in the next 3 events) it will be a win either way for the younger Seb. That means it will be an all out fight for not just the victory but also for the reputation of being the better driver. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. And that is exactly what Ogier will be trying to do this weekend. “The only point which would make a bad situation for me, of course, [is] if Seb Loeb wins the rally and I got trouble or something. Then it will be a bit of a shadow on my championship against his victory again and I think I don’t deserve that.”
Loeb’s last WRC was back Rally Argentina when he took his 2nd win of the year. And the last time the 9 times champ drove on a pure asphalt rally was on this very rally 12 months ago. Since then the Frenchman has been busy doing circuit racing and developing a Citroen WTCC car for next year. But despite that time away from his factory Citroen DS3 WRC, Ogier thinks Loeb will still be at the top of his game in France.
“I know he is able to go straight to top speed. He has been out of rallying for some months, but every week he is still racing and driving cars – I’m sure he is still in the rhythm of the competition. Tarmac is really his surface and he knows this rally very well, I’m sure he will be there at the front.”
For this years edition of Rally France the Power stage, normally run as the final stage of the rally, will make up stage 1 of the event. “It’s kind of strange that the first special stage is so important,” says the Volkswagen driver. “For me, the perfect weekend would be to first win the championship title and then come out on top in the duel with Loeb.” So Long as Ogier gets points on the Power Stage, he will be Champion, as it will be mathematically impossible for anyone else to get enough points to beat him on the next 2 rounds regardless of Ogier’s Results.
So, the question is which Seb will come out on top? Alsace is Based near Loeb’s home town, and as Ogier said, he knows these roads. But Citroen seem to be lacking pace and speed this year with there DS3. And Rallying is a mile away from track racing. It will all come down to how fast Sebastien Loeb can get into a rhythm and on the pace from the start of the event. And Ogier at the moment seems unstoppable. If there are no reliability issues with either cars, then you can expect to see an epic battle between the two greatest stars of this era at the very top of their game.
Who would you bet against?…. A 9 times World Champion, or an unbeatable Volkswagen. One thing’s for sure. For the first time in 9 years, the big Number 1 will be fitted to a different driver.
You can as always, follow all the action as it happens with Rally duchess Rebecca Williams and Colin (Voice of Rallying) Clark on WRCLive over on WRC.com.